Whether or not you’re planning on heading on holiday this summer, chances are you are planning a Big Day Out at some point! Whether to London for museums, a theme park for thrills, the Zoo for wild adventures or anywhere else, planning a trip like this for the whole family can feel like a daunting task!
I home educate my boys, and as a family we are quite keen on days out at attractions. We have passes to various places and make as much use of them as we can! When you are spending what can feel like a lot of money on a single day out, planning to try and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible is a must! I’ve rounded up some of the questions we go through organising some of our Big Days Out!
Find A Deal
Wherever you want to go, it is worth checking whether there are any special offers for you to get in cheaper!
Money Saving Expert is an excellent resource for special offers on days out
Keep an eye out in shops, in papers or magazines. Merlin especially does a lot of promotions for 2for1 entry this way but other attractions do to. Check local papers for local attractions as well as national!
Reward card schemes like ClubCard and Nectar often include attraction tickets in their rewards. You might be able to save on entry using them, however check how to redeem the points – some need to be booked online in advance and some are redeemed at the attraction.
Some attractions also offer a discount if you travel there by public transport. They sometimes need to be booked together or you need your tickets to redeem, so again double check the terms!
If you can, book online in advance. Often there will be at least a small discount for booking this way.
If you can or will go more than once check the cost of passes for the year vs the cost for one entry. Many places you may only need to visit 3 or 4 times to make passes a great alternative if you can afford the upfront cost. Also check your ticket terms because some places allow free returns up to a year after your first trip. Do you know a friend with passes? They may be able to get you in for free or cheaper, so perhaps a group visit might be an option!
Plan Your Travel
How can you get to your chosen destination? Will you be using public transport or will you drive?
If you are travelling via public transport, check where the nearest stop is and whether you will have a long walk to your attraction. Big theme parks can be difficult to get to, whilst inner city museums are often easier on public transport.
Check your timings. What time do you need to leave home and what time will you need to end your day out?
How are your children on public transport? Will they sleep, maybe in a sling and you can leave later, or do you need to leave earlier to allow them to run about on the train for a bit?
Can you book all of the transport in advance or will you need to buy some on the day? If you need to do the tube, buses, trams or other local transport check how to pay – card or cash!
If you are driving double check your route and the likely traffic at the time of day you will be travelling to ensure you have a realistic idea of travel time. Google Maps can be a really useful tool as you can check usual traffic for different times of day!
Where can you park and are there parking charges? How easy is it to get to your destination from where you park. If you can double check in advance about whether you need card or cash to pay for parking that will also make your life easier.
If you are travelling into London check where the congestion charge zone is and you can either pay it in advance or avoid it!
Do you have things for your children to do in the car? Do they sleep in the car? This might affect your choices of when in the day to travel!
We aim to leave early in the car and sometimes travel in PJs, and we take PJs and change before we leave so if they fall asleep on the way home we can just transfer to bed.
If you have the option and funds to do so, staying at a hotel, youth hostel, bed and breakfast, airbnb or even camping might be a great option to make the travel to and from a Big Day Out less stressful!
Some big theme parks have hotels and there are deals to be had – again Money Saving Expert and other online sites can be great tools for finding a good price.
Look for hotels within easy travel distance. The closest ones might charge a premium to stay nearby, but if you go a little further afield it can become significantly cheaper.
Do you have local friends and family? Perhaps you could combine a visit and a day out and stay with them.
Don’t rule out camping – it is often very cheap and for one night most people can put up with sleeping in a tent!
Check before you go where and what you can eat at your destination.
Most places will have some kind of cafe or restaurant, however many places charge a premium for food for their captive audience. Check if there are picnic areas – and places to eat a picnic inside if the weather is poor!
However if you are taking a large group then carrying the whole days food for everyone can be tricky!
A tip I had from a friend to get a full day out was to take lunch and snacks, and then buy an evening meal. If that can fit into your travel plans and budget it can be a great way to get the most out of your day.
Do you have allergies or other eating needs that need taking care of? Make sure you either take what you need or that your chosen destination can cope with all of your needs. Double check directly with them if you can!
Drinks can be the heaviest part of a long day out. We now have refillable bottles for the big Merlin theme parks – once you’ve paid for the bottle it is 75p to refill which is far cheaper than buying most drinks and easier on us than carrying lots of drinks all day!
Another tip which has worked well for us is to take a folding shopping trolley on big days out! We can fill it with food, drinks, spare clothes, slings and anything else and taking it it turns dragging it is easier on both of us than carrying heavy bags around. It also means we can sling both of our children without worrying about backpacks!
Once you are out and about on your big day think about how little ones will get getting around.
Sometimes even the strongest legs will get tired if there is a lot of walking involved in your day so a buggy or a sling might be a great tool. If you don’t want to push a buggy and you have older children then hiring a larger carrier might be great to give you some options!
Some theme parks and other places have buggies or slings available to hire or borrow whilst you are there, so it is worth checking if this is a service available and if you need to book it in advance.
Don’t forget good shoes for everyone if you will be doing lots of walking!
If you would like some sling advice, you can book a consultation with us! We offer both phone and video consultations, and 15 minutes on the phone is free! You can book directly here or drop us a message and we can arrange a time which suits you.
Check the weather forecast before you travel obviously, but plan for various combinations! UK weather is notoriously unreliable so it can always be useful to have a waterproof or somewhere to escape to inside. If you will be outside a lot suncream and sunhats might be needed, or lots of layers.
Enjoying Your Day
If you have paid a lot of money for a day out it can feel like a lot of pressure to make sure than everyone is Having Fun all day! But this is a lot of pressure for many little ones, especially if you have any little ones who are neurodivergent.
Bear in mind how your family usually reacts to lots of input and potentially walking around! If you know that it will be overwhelming, consider trying to go when it is quieter, or making sure you have a quiet day before and at least a day to recover afterwards!
If anyone has comforting items like ear defenders, chewlery, favourite blankets, clothes or teddies consider taking them to have a bit of something familiar. This can be sensible with food too – comforting food that is safe will help you get through mealtimes too!
Know everyone’s limits and plan in advance what you definitely want to do and what would be nice – you might find that you do less but that everyone gets more from the day!
I hope that you enjoy your fab days out!